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On the heels of Monday's subpoena of AG Albert Gonzales comes news that the Bush administration has preemptively deleted emails in anticipation of impending Congressional investigations. As Dan Froomkin writes in today's Washington Post:

Countless e-mails to and from many key White House staffers have been deleted -- lost to history and placed out of reach of congressional subpoenas -- due to a brazen violation of internal White House policy that was allowed to continue for more than six years, the White House acknowledged yesterday.

The leading culprit appears to be President Bush's enormously influential political adviser Karl Rove, who reportedly used his Republican National Committee-provided Blackberry and e-mail accounts for most of his electronic communication.

Until 2004, all e-mail on RNC accounts was routinely deleted after 30 days. Since 2004, White House staffers using those accounts have been able to save their e-mail indefinitely -- but have also been able to delete whatever they felt like deleting. By comparison, the White House e-mail system preserves absolutely everything forever, in accordance with the Presidential Records Act.

The White House yesterday said it has no idea how many e-mails have been lost.

Pat Leahy (D-VT) had the best remark about the latest Bush scandal:

Like the famous 18-minute gap in the Nixon White House tapes, it appears likely that key documentation has been erased or misplaced. This sounds like the Administration's version of 'the dog ate my homework.'

Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington), concurs:

"It's clear that the White House has been willfully violating the law, the only question now is to what extent? The ever changing excuses offered by the administration - that they didn't want to violate the Hatch Act, that staff wasn't clear on the law - are patently ridiculous. Very convenient that embarrassing - and potentially incriminating - emails have gone missing. It's the Nixon White House all over again."

CREW published "Without a Trace," (executive summary here and full report here) a report explaining the administration's violations of the Presidential Records Act of 1978:

1) The administration failed to implement adequate record-keeping systems to archive presidential email records; 2) two confidential sources independently informed CREW that the administration abandoned a plan to recover more than five million missing emails; 3) emails were not adequately preserved.

This is not an issue of a few dozen or few hundred emails, but of millions. That's not an oversight or an accident, that's conspiracy and obstruction of justice. In a just world, computer forensics investigators would already be on the job. (Glenn Greenwald provided a handy list of the Bushites' previous instances of dog-eaten homework, lest anyone believes this to be an isolated occurrence.)

update (3/22/2008 @ 2:21pm):
According to the AP, the White House destroyed the hard drives.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on April 12, 2007 10:43 PM.

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